SIOUX CENTER, Iowa – On the scoreboard, the result on Saturday afternoon (Oct. 13) closely resembled the one from three days earlier when the Concordia University volleyball team fell in straight sets. Up against eighth-ranked Dordt, the GPAC’s first-place team, the Bulldogs battled in the second and third sets before tripping up, 25-10, 27-25, 26-24. Concordia also dropped the second and third sets by two-point margins Wednesday versus No. 14 Hastings.
Still in a fight to move into a top eight placement required to make the GPAC tournament, first-year head coach Ben Boldt’s squad is now 13-9 overall and 3-9 in conference play (tied for ninth).
“We had to adjust to Dordt’s serving in the first set,” Boldt said. “Once we did and were able to get in system with our pass, we played clean volleyball. Our offense had good rhythm. I think we took a step forward today and we look forward to building on this performance next week.”
As Boldt mentioned, the Bulldogs were overwhelmed in the first set by Dordt’s serve game, but then they settled in and gave the host Defenders all they could handle the rest of the afternoon. A Harlie Himmelberg ace even put Concordia up 24-22 in the second set. The Defenders (19-2, 12-0 GPAC) ultimately put the set away and asserted control of the match thanks to a kill apiece by Ema Altena and Julia Lindbergh for point Nos. 26 and 27, respectively.
In a match that Boldt walked away from seeing many positives, the Bulldogs also pushed Dordt to the limit in the third set. Impressively, Concordia responded from a 24-21 deficit by running off the next three points to even it up. Jenna Habegger, who hammered five of her team high 10 kills in the third set, leveled the score with a kill. It simply takes a lot to get Dordt flustered. Altena ended the match by pounding down a free ball.
There’s hardly any shame in losing on the home floor of a Defender squad that recently knocked off fourth-ranked Viterbo University (Wis.) and appears to be a national title contender. Dordt entered the weekend ranked inside or near the top 10 nationally in kills per set, hitting percentage and blocks per set. Last week the Defenders swept the three GPAC player of the week awards. On Saturday, they were led by the 14 kills of Altena. Lindbergh hit .529 while totaling nine kills.
Concordia actually out-blocked Dordt, 7-6, though the Defenders had a sizable advantage in hitting percentage (.279 to .162). Kelsey Baarck chipped in six kills for the Bulldogs while Emmie Noyd added five kills and four blocks (one solo). Setter Tara Callahan put up 28 assists, six digs and three block assists.
A critical match in terms of postseason hopes is coming up Wednesday when the Bulldogs will be at College of Saint Mary (12-14, 2-9 GPAC). First serve from Omaha is set for 7:30 p.m. CT. The two sides also met inside Walz Arena on Sept. 4 with the result being a five-set victory for Concordia.